Friday, March 5, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, March 4, 2010

ADK Music Scene: Legends On Friday Night

Friday March 5 brings the musical legends to the Capital District. Dave Mason and Leon Russell are playing a show together at the Hart Theater at The Egg in downtown Albany. Dave Mason was a founding member of Traffic and recorded with other legends such as Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. Leon Russell has been touring since the 60’s and has been featured on more studio albums by major artists than you can shake a stick at. The same night, Richie Havens is at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady. Richie is of course most famous for his performance at Woodstock in 1969. If you’ve never been to Proctor’s, this would be a good night to go. The theater is absolutely beautiful and luckily has been saved from the wrecking ball more than once.

Thursday, March 4

Classic Rock / Reggae influenced Fingerdiddle is at Trapper’s Tavern in North Creek from 7-10pm. This is a fun two-piece band with a guitar and drummer. Look for them sometime Whitewater Derby weekend as well.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Finger-Diddle/185969906157
http://www.copperfieldinn.com/events.asp

Friday, March 5

Another duo with guitar and drums – Sirsy is at The Putnam Den in Saratoga at 9pm. There is an opener.
http://www.sirsy.com/
http://www.putnamden.com/

Red Molly will be playing two shows at Caffe Lena in Saratoga, one at 7pm and one at 9:30pm. Caffe Lena’s website says they are “Called “a cross between the Dixie Chicks and O’ Brother, Where Art Thou’” this hot NYC trio blends their voices on irresistible songs by Gillian Welch, Iris DeMent and Hank Williams, adding in bluegrass standards, old-time southern gospel, and classic American tunes. You simply can’t hear them without falling in love.”
Tickets are $20 at the door.
http://www.redmolly.com
http://www.caffelena.com

Eat, Sleep, Funk plays at 20 Main in AuSable Forks at 10pm.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eat-Sleep-Funk/162026102287?v=info
http://www.myspace.com/20main

Dave Mason & Leon Russell at The Hart Theater at The Egg in Albany 7pm.
http://www.leonrussellrecords.com/
http://www.theegg.org/

Richie Havens at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady at 7pm.
http://www.theegg.org/
http://www.eighthstep.org/8thstep/Home.html

Tim Herron Corporation at Slicker’s in Old Forge at 9pm.
http://www.timherroncorporation.com/fr_index.cfm
http://www.myspace.com/slickers_tavern

Saturday, March 6

Tim Herron Corporation at the Monopole in Plattsburgh at 9pm.
http://www.timherroncorporation.com/fr_index.cfm
http://www.monopole.org/

Jimkata at The Putnam Den in Saratoga at 9pm.
http://www.myspace.com/jimkatamusic
http://www.putnamden.com

Jen Gadway is a solo singer/guitar player who will be playing at Laura’s Tavern in North Creek at 9pm.
http://www.laurastavern.com

Wednesday, March 10

Vinnie Leddick at barVino in North Creek at 7pm.
http://www.barvino.net

Photo: Courtesy of Leon Russell


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Birders Flock to View Rare Visitor From the Arctic

Over the past two weeks dozens if not hundreds of birders from New York and nearby states have traveled to Rouses Point to see an Ivory Gull, one of the rarest birds in the U.S. With its striking white plumage and blue-gray, orange-tipped bill, an adult Ivory Gull is also one of the most subtedly beautiful birds in the world.

Ivory Gulls spend most of their time feeding along the edges of the pack ice in the Arctic Ocean, where they search for food, only rarely venturing further south than coastal Laborador and Newfoundland. Feeding mostly on small fish, Ivory Gulls also search out and scavange the carcasses of seals killed by polar bears. The Rouses Point bird seems to have been enticed to remain for a couple of weeks by handouts from ice fishermen. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

4-H Offers Shooting Sports Archery Program

A three day 4-H Shooting Sports Archery workshop will be held on Thursday, March 11th from 6pm-8pm , Thursday, March 18th from 6pm-8pm and Saturday, March 20th from 10am-1pm (bring a lunch). Participants must attend all three classes. This will be a free program for 4-H members for non-members a fee of $5 will be collected.

This program is for children 9 years old and over and will cover the fundamental safety steps for handling a bow. Steps such as: equipment matching, use of personal safety equipment, range rules, developing a sight picture, etc. The bows, arrows, tabs, arm guards, and targets are all provided for this event.

As with all NYS 4-H Shooting Sports programs, Warren County instructors are either State, or Nationally certified in their area of discipline. Safety is always the primary focus of the program.

All participants must be registered 4-H members to participate for insurance reasons. The $5 fee for non-members includes a membership in Warren County 4-H. The class is limited to 18 youth and pre-registration is required. For more information or to pre-register please call 623-3291 or 668-4881.

Photo: Caroline Lomnitzer, Archery Program.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Viper’s Bugloss: An Adirondack Roadside Attraction

When summer is in full swing, it is to the meadows and fields that we must head to feast our eyes on the riotous colors of the season. Wildflowers fill the open spaces where sunlight reaches the ground. In many places within the Adirondack Park, however, the only open spaces are the shoulders of the roads. Fortunately, many plants colonize these precarious environs, their tastes turned to harsh soils and microclimates. Among summer’s roadside colonizers we find viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare), a plant that brings a bit of the sky to earth.

Viper’s bugloss (aka: blueweed, snake flower and blue devil) is one of the more attractive flowers gracing our barren roadsides. Growing upwards of a meter in height, its stem is topped with a spire dotted with many blue-pink blossoms, which open sequentially throughout the season. When the flowers first open, they are a bright rosy pink; as they age, they turn a beautiful sky blue. The long stamens, which protrude beyond the flower’s petals, remain a deep pink, giving the blossom an eye-catching “sky-blue-pink” coloration.

Most wildflowers we find blooming along our roadways are non-natives, plants that either came over with early colonists as food or medicine and later escaped from their gardens, or plants that snuck in on the shoes, clothing and other belongings of settlers from across the sea. Viper’s bugloss (pronounced BEW-gloss, by the way) falls into the former category. Back in the “old country,” which in this case is most of Europe and much of Asia, it was revered as a cure for many poisons and snake bites. The logic behind this attribution harkens back to the Doctrine of Signatures, a philosophy that declared that if a plant had a part that resembled a part of the human body, then it must be a cure for ailments of said part. With the plant in question, the seeds apparently look like snake heads, and therefore the leap of logic was that it could be used to treat snake bites.

I have a better theory. If one takes a close look at this plant, one sees that it is covered with many small hairs. These hairs are not soft and cuddly; instead, they are sharp and prickly. If grabbed with a bare hand, the plant can “bite” back, impaling its antagonist with its irritating hairs. It is possible this could feel like one has been bitten, and what would be lurking around plants in dry, barren places but venomous vipers! If one’s going to jump to conclusions, at least this one makes (some) sense.

Modern day practitioners of herbal medicines make an infusion from the leaves of viper’s bugloss to treat inflammation and melancholy, as well as to reduce fevers and relieve coughs. However, the plant is known to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, chemicals that if consumed in enough quantity can cause liver failure. In fact, the ASPCA lists viper’s bugloss as a serious toxin for horses, which will eat it if nothing else is around (so much for the deterrent quality of the prickly hairs).

Nevertheless, the plant has some redeeming qualities. In Europe Echium is harvested as an oilseed crop (technically, it is E. platagineum, not E. vulgare, that is harvested for this oil, but let’s not quibble). Apparently the oil is full of omega fatty acids, specifically gamma linoliec acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SdA). These two fatty acids are essential to the human body, and yet the body does not produce them; they must be acquired from outside sources.

Bees and butterflies frequent the plants, seeking the nectar within each semi-tubular bloom. I’ve watched many a bee happily bumbling along from blossom to blossom, oblivious to my curious eyes. Not only does the plant appeal to bees, but a quick scan online turned up a couple sources that sell viper’s bugloss honey, claiming it is tasty with a chewy consistency.

A member of the borage family, viper’s bugloss shares many of the same qualities of borage, including the light blue flowers, and the rapidity in which it spreads (the plants readily reseed themselves). The flowers of both are also edible: it is not uncommon for them to be crystallized and tossed in salads.

For the hobbyist who likes to try her hand at natural dying, the root is known for producing a red dye for fabrics.

Still, we must remember that this plant is not native, and thanks to its reseeding capabilities, it can spread with relative ease. As such, viper’s bugloss is considered a noxious weed in many states and eradication programs are in place to eliminate the plant where it has taken hold. I’ve checked various invasive plant lists for New York, and viper’s bugloss is not listed on any of them. So, enjoy the plant when you see it along the roadside. Take some photographs, dig up a root or two and tie-dye a t-shirt, toss some flowers in your salad, but don’t plant it in your gardens at home. Leave it along the roadside, where it can wave at passersby with its cheerful blossoms.

For some truly stunning photographs of this roadside plant, visit: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/indexmag.html?http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/artfeb04/bjbugloss.html


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Alan Wechsler: The Beauty of Lake Ice

A few weeks ago, while trudging across Chapel Pond on our way to climb some obscure ice route, I stopped to gaze at the black, slick surface of the lake.

The wind had swept the lake clear of snow, except where it had collected in a few wispy areas. It was what drivers call “black ice,” but it was far from black.

It was dazzling, this frozen surface. A week earlier, hit by the late January thaw, it had been covered with brown runoff. But on this day it was more than a foot thick. A galaxy of bubbles were trapped in its various, transparent layers. Cracks ran across its surface, the thin ones bisecting the ice like ghosts, the thicker spaces filled with snow.

Ice formation is complex. According to one Web site: “ice has a hexagonal crystal structure with a longer ‘c’ axis and three identical ‘a’ axes (called ‘a1’, ‘a2’ and ‘a3’). The simple ice form is a hexagonal prism with the vertical direction being the ‘c’ axis direction.”

Uh, right. And we thought it was just a matter of water getting cold enough.

On Chapel Pond, the three of us paused over this surface, taking in the temporary beauty of winter. Bare ice like this in the Adirondacks is often rare, soon to be covered by snow. And it attracts visitors. Drive across Cascade Lakes at the right time and you might see locals skating across the long, narrow surface as late-afternoon snow whips across the pass.

On Lake Champlain when it finally freezes, some die-hard Vermonters skate out on Nordic Skates, a Scandinavian invention (of course). These are extra-large skates that attach to cross-country ski boots that allow for huge strides and marathon expeditions. This has its own dangers—big lakes have pressure ridges, areas of open water and the possibility of thin ice due to unseen currents. Practitioners of this sport wear garden rake-like claws on a rope around their neck, so that if the unthinkable occurs they can haul themselves out of the water before hypothermia sets in. Brrr.

Adventurers on motorized equipment are attracted to big water ice too. Ice on lakes like George and Champlain is strong enough to support snowmobiles, motorcycles with spiked wheels and even pick-up trucks. But they should be wary—occasionally, such drivers never return.

Whatever beauty the ice offers, it is gone now. The storms of last week have covered all but the windiest areas with blankets of snow. That means the ice will last longer this spring, thanks to a nice layer of insulation.

Snow adds its own interesting problems to travel over ice. Some say the weight of snow can push lake ice down, squeezing the water up through the cracks to saturate the lower layers of the snow. That means an unpleasant surprise for x-c skiers or snowshoers trudging through such glop.

So perhaps it’s too late this year, but if you happen to be traveling over bare lake ice, take a moment to stop and look. There’s magic between you and the water.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saranac Lake Honors Olympians in Parade Friday: Updated

The village of Saranac Lake will hold a parade for local Olympians at 4 p.m. this Friday. Nordic-combined skier and medalist Billy Demong of Vermontville, biathletes Lowell Bailey and Haley Johnson of Lake Placid and and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, ski jumper Peter Frenette of Saranac Lake, lugers Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake and Mark Grimmette of Lake Placid, and bobsledder John Napier of Lake Placid will be among honored guests.*

The parade begins at the Post Office on Broadway and winds down Main Street to the Harrietstown Hall, where a ceremony and autograph-signing session will be held. Local kids from Saranac Lake’s schools, Mount Pisgah downhill ski area, Dewey Mountain cross-country ski area and other organizations will also march.

The event had originally been planned for March 13 but was changed to accommodate the schedules of the athletes, whose competition season is not over. The Saranac Lake Women’s Civic Chamber is the primary organizer. The Olympic Regional Development Authority and the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce are partners. Contact the chamber if you would like more information (518-891-1990).

*Other Olympians may be in attendance—to be updated.

Photograph of the Harrietstown Hall with banners depicting Mazdzer, Demong, Burke and Frenette.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Saranac Lake Cabin Fever Film Festival

For the ninth year the Cabin Fever Film Festival will be hosting classic films in Saranac Lake each Wednesday in March. Organizer Tim Fortune says,“ We are now located at the John Black Room of the Saranac Lake Laboratory. It is a great venue. This is our third location since we started nine years ago. We started at the Hotel Saranac and had one season at Pendragon Theatre. With the setting of this historic building and showing these old classic movies gives the John Black Room the intimate feeling of a home movie theatre.”

For the first time the Cabin Fever Festival committee has chosen a slightly different format. In past years the Festival consisted of a short film or cartoon and a feature film. This year on Wednesdays, episodes of the 1932 serial Heroes of the West will be shown along with six cartoons and comedy shorts. Each evening will then be a continuation of the “cliffhanger” ending from the previous show of Heroes of the West.

“We are showing all shorts,” says Fortune. “W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Our Gang, Buster Keaton as well as a classic cartoon each night.”

“We have always been fortunate in the past with local sponsors. Putting on Cabin Fever is very expensive. This year Cape Air has generously sponsored the whole festival with Compass Printing providing the posters and programs.”

Along with Fortune, four other volunteers meet to brainstorm about the Cabin Fever Film Festival schedule and provide multiply duties to pull off the event each year. Fortune credits Bruce Young, Chris Brescia, Danny Ryan and Charles Alexander with making the Festival happen.

“We are all volunteers and any profit goes toward supporting other arts endeavors like the Third Thursday Art Walks that run from June through September,” says Fortune.

Across the street from the Saranac Lake Laboratory, Executive Chef of the Robert Louis Stevenson Tea Room Les Hershhorn, is creating a special weekly buffet for those interested in “Dinner and a Movie.”

Hershhorn states, “There will be a new menu each week. We will feature various international buffets for $25 per person. This week we have a Spanish cuisine with a chicken and sausage paella, salad, vegetable dish, home baked breads and dessert. Last year during the Film Festival we did a Mexican buffet, Indian night and other international flavors. The buffet starts at 5:30 and reservations are required.”

Hershhorn wants everyone to know that children are welcome and to please ask for pricing when making the reservations. He expects more families to come this year because of the “shorts” format of this year’s Cabin Fever Film Festival.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Tea Room, 78 Church Street, and the John Black Room of the Saranac Lake Laboratory are linked in history. The RLS Tea Room was the original home of Dr. Hugh Kinghorn one of the original founders of the RLS Society of America. The Stevenson Society’s goal was to preserve the Baker Cottage (where Stevenson spent time while attempting to recover from TB while in Saranac Lake), original manuscripts and a collection of his artifacts. Across the street the Cabin Fever Film Festival takes place in Dr. Trudeau’s laboratory, now the home to Historic Saranac Lake. Dr. Trudeau was not only a renowned physician but a pioneer in Tuberculosis research and a founding member of the Stevenson Society as well.

General admission is $6.00 per film or $25.00 for all five; Students and seniors are $5.00 or $20.00 for all five while children twelve and under are free. Subscriptions may be purchased up to the first day of the series, March 3. The film starts at 7:00 p.m. each Wednesday in March at the Saranac Lake Laboratory 89 Church Street. For more information call Tim Fortune at 891-1139.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Epic Stories of the Iroquois" at the Adirondack Museum

The Iroquois people are the original residents of what is now New York State. There were five tribes in the first Confederacy: the Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga. Eventually, a sixth nation, the Tuscarora tribe, joined.

On Sunday, March 14 Mohawk storyteller Darren Bonaparte will recount stories and legends of the Rotinonhsion:ni (Iroquois), including “The Creation Story” and “The Great Peacemaker” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. The program, “Epic Stories of the Iroquois,” is part of the Cabin Fever Sunday series.

Darren Bonaparte is a storyteller, Mohawk historian, artist, teacher, and maker of wampum belts from Akwesasne. He is the author of Creation and Confederation: The Living History of the Iroquois as well as A Lily Among Thorns: The Mohawk Repatriation of Káteri Tekahkwí:tha.

Bonaparte is a also former elected chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. His articles have been published in Aboriginal Voices, Winds of Change, The Nation, and Native American magazine. He is also the creator of “The Wampum Chronicles: Mohawk Territory on the Internet” at www.wampumchronicles.com.

The presentation will be held in the Auditorium, and will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sunday programs are offered at no charge to museum members. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at
www.adirondackmuseum.org .

Also on March 14, the Adirondack Museum Education Department will hold an Open House for Educators from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Area teachers are invited to visit the Mark W. Potter Education Center to discover the variety of hands-on programs available for students in Pre-K through grade 12. All are designed to meet curricular needs. Educators can learn about the museum’s School Membership program and enter to win a day of free outreach classes for their school. For more information, contact Christine Campeau at (518) 352-7311, ext. 116 or [email protected]

Photo: Darren Bonaparte with wampum.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

APA Approves Route 30 Cell Tower, More Planned

On February 19th the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) issued a permit to Verizon Wireless and the Duane Volunteer Fire Company authorizing the construction of a cellular tower and the collocation of emergency communication equipment. The approval came to Verizon’s surprise, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise is reporting, as the company had been planning on withdrawing the permit application. The tower, if it is constructed by Verizon, would broaden cellular coverage along NYS Route 30 and improve emergency service communications in Franklin County. This is the third Verizon Wireless approval in 2010.

The site is along the south side of County Route 26 in northern Duane, Franklin County on lands owned by the Duane Volunteer Fire Company. The approved tower is 80-feet tall and was expected to include two whip antennas, one 18-foot for Franklin County Emergency Services and another 16-foot for the Duane Volunteer Fire Company which will extend above the tower itself for a total height of 98 feet.

According to an APA press release “Agency staff determined the tower and antenna array would not be readily apparent from off site locations. The tower will be painted a dark grey or black color with a non-reflective or matte finish. This site is also located in close proximity to existing telephone and electric power.”

Last year the agency issued 31 telecommunication permits, including 14 new towers, 14 collocation projects, 1 replacement and 2 replacement/collocation permits. To-date the agency issued 195 telecommunication permits resulting in the construction of 118 structures.

The APA is currently reviewing another ten applications for the following locations:

1 in Town of Dresden (behind Hulett’s Landing fire station)

1 in Town of Fine (NYS Route 3 – Star Lake hamlet)

1 in Town of Minerva (NYS Route 28 & More Memorial Hwy)

1 in Town of Chesterfield (Virginia Drive)

1 in Town of Clifton (NYS Route 3, Cranberry Lake)

1 in Town of Chester (NYS Route 9, Word of Life)

1 in Town of Wilmington (NY Route 86)

1 in Town of Queensbury (West Mountain Road)

1 in Town of Westport (Boyle Road)

1 in Town of Fort Ann (collocation on existing simulated tree tower)

The following description of the implementation of the APA’s Towers Policy come from an APA press release:

The agency’s Towers Policy, revised in February of 2002, discourages mountaintop towers and promotes the collocation of facilities on existing structures. The policy is intended to protect the Adirondack Park’s aesthetic and open space resources by describing how to site telecommunication towers so they are not readily apparent. The natural scenic character of the Adirondack Park is the foundation of the quality of life and economy of the region, long recognized as a uniquely special and valuable State and National treasure.”

The policy also recognizes the importance for telecommunications and other technologies to support the needs of local residents, the visiting public and the park’s economic sector. The policy includes guidance for telecommunication companies to ensure successful implementation of projects.

Guidance includes: avoiding locating facilities on mountaintops and ridge lines; concealing any structure by careful siting, using a topographic or vegetative foreground or backdrop; minimizing structure height and bulk; using color to blend with surroundings; and using existing buildings to locate facilities whenever possible.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Beaver River: Dispute Over Access

Beaver River (nine year-round residents) is not the easiest place to visit. Most tourists get there by driving along remote, dirt roads to Stillwater Reservoir and then taking a boat for six miles or so to the hamlet.

For years, the Thompson family has run a water taxi between the reservoir’s boat launch and the hamlet. The Thompsons also operate a barge that ferries vehicles across an arm of the reservoir to a dirt road that can be driven to Beaver River. In winter, it’s also possible to reach the community by snowmobile.

Last year the state Department of Environmental Conservation refused to issue the Thompsons a permit to continue their water taxi and ferry, contending that the family’s operations at the state-owned launch amount to an illegal use of the Forest Preserve.

The Thompsons ran the water taxi and ferry without a permit in 2009, but it’s doubtful that DEC will look the other way this year. In January, DEC wrote a letter demanding that the family cease its operations at the launch and remove its docks from state land.

The Thompsons, who run the Norridgewock inn and restaurant in Beaver River, say DEC would cut off access to the hamlet and hurt their business.

Alan Wechsler wrote about the dispute in the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer. Click here to read the story.

Soon after the story’s appearance online, the Explorer received some e-mails and phone calls from owners of summer camps at Beaver River. It seems that not everyone in Beaver River supports the Thompsons. The Explorer was told that many people with camps oppose the Thompsons’ efforts to secure road access to the hamlet. These people like the isolation.

DEC is negotiating with the Thompsons to try to settle the matter, but if the talks fail, the controversy could come to a head after the ice thaws and the summer people start returning to Beaver River.

Photo by Phil Brown: The Thompson family’s barge at Stillwater Reservoir.


Monday, March 1, 2010

2009 Bear Hunting Harvest Largest in NY History

Bear harvest numbers in 2009 were the second-highest ever recorded in New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. Last fall’s harvest was only exceeded by 2003’s record total.

Statewide, hunters took 1,487 black bears in 2009 – a 15 percent increase from the 1,295 taken in 2008. The 2009 increase is principally due to a strong surge in bear harvest in the Adirondack region, where the 814 bears taken in 2009 was a 40 percent increase over 2008. In 2003, 1,864 bears were harvested statewide. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Local Municipalities Struggle for NYSERDA Green Funds

Municipalities inside the Adirondack Park are facing hurdles and isolation from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), according to a review of NYSERDA practices. NYSERDA is the agency that channels all energy efficiency and renewable funding for New York State, including stimulus funds, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funds, funds from the Green Jobs / Green Homes NY bill, the Systems Benefit Charge that Adirondack residents each pay on their electric bill,and more.

Concerns first arose among local officials after NYSERDA abruptly canceled Canton-based Community Energy Services’ contract to run the North Country Energy $mart Community program in 10 counties (at $150,000 per year). The nonprofit was forced to close its doors after eight years, putting eight full- and part-time employees out of work and leaving the North Country without a central coordinating organization for local Green jobs and technologies, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

Green energy proponents with long-standing relationships with CES who asked not to be identified because of fears their own funding applications would be jeopardized told the Almanack that NYSERDA never cooperated with CES and could not appreciate the unique demands of rural communities.

“CES had never had adequate support from NYSERDA,” one said. “[CES] had tried to find solutions to adapt programs to the North Country’s needs, where for example construction teams operate as a one- or two-man self-employed show rather than the 20-30 common in urban areas.” Sources said NYSDERA was uncooperative, and their response, canceling CES’s contract and leaving the area without any access to knowledgeable support, was unproductive.

At the time, NYSERDA claimed it was revamping its North Country program and promised to issue a new request for proposals “any day.” In the meantime, NYSERDA’s economic development staff in Albany was tasked with overseeing the local program. Five months later a new Request For Proposals for the contract was issued, one that is still inadequate to address the needs of smaller communities—such as the lack of Building Performance Institute (BPI) Accredited Companies in the Adirondacks—according to critics. BPI companies do the comprehensive home assessment/audit as well as the retrofit work under NYSERDA’s Home Performance Program. “There are many hoops to jump through,” one local energy expert said, “and most small local contractors don’t see the value or don’t have the time and money to get through the process.”

Jeffrey Gordon, NYSERDA’s Director of Communications, responded by saying that “our plans in the North Country include expanding the program, to hire an additional [Energy Services] Coordinator.” “Previously there was one and a half coordinators; our plan will be to provide three total to better serve the large geographic area,” he said. “Furthermore, and Energy Services Coordinator does not need to be involved.”

Gordon also pointed to NYSERDA’s “pre-qualified incentive path” for smaller Existing Facilities and the agency’s Small Commercial Audit Program, for smaller smaller Industrial and commercial facilities, State and local governments, not-for-profit and private institutions, colleges and universities, K-12 schools, and non-residential facilities. The Small Commercial Audit Program is not hindered by the lack of local BPI accredited contractors because it is administered through L&S Energy Services, Inc., of Clifton Park, a company that handles all projects from Westchester County to the Canadian Border, from Vermont to Lake Ontario.

Local officials and green energy proponents have also been disturbed by additional steps required by NYSERDA for its Small Community Block Grants, which they feel have limited local municipalities’ access to $29 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided for small municipalities across New York State. Because of their small size, local municipalities seeking those funds are required to submit individual proposals for projects, while larger communities were given a check directly from the Department of Energy to use funds at their discretion.

The ARRA stimulus money is supposed to fund projects that reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency, but local applicants say new hoops for small communities are an unfair burden. Not a single community in the Adirondacks met the “Large Community” standard, and so none were allocated funds directly from the first round of ARRA Community Block Grants [pdf].

Grant applications for the Small Community Block Grants—$1.8 million over a 14 county area—were due February 17th. Local municipalities had just six weeks to devise a project and develop the application and supporting materials. Essex County planners said they only got a helping hand from NYSERDA in January, a month before the application was due.

A green energy proponent who works directly with local Adirondack municipalities said local governments are “short-staffed, they are part-time, poorly paid, and the requirements for NYSDERA applications are exacting.” “They were asked to prove a certain level of energy savings which required precise calculations, space measurements, a year of energy bills, some software usage that many here are not familiar with,” the source said.

Local municipalities were required to have a municipal energy audit done in advance, which takes longer to arrange in the North Country where there are very few certified energy auditors. Communities were required to pass a resolution in support of the application even though many local town boards meet just once a month. Victor J. Putman, Director Essex County Department of Community Development and Planning, said, “I can’t see how a town without an engineer and a planning department could have applied.”

Essex County was swamped with requests from its 18 towns and 4 villages, and was forced to leave behind the county government’s needs in order to help them through the process of securing audits and preparing applications. With the county’s help, municipalities filed 14 applications from 11 towns totaling about $500,000. Each application took a staff person working 4 to 5 days to complete, a requirement locals said stretched the meaning of “Block Grant.”

Jeffrey Gordon, NYSERDA’s Director of Communications, said that since 2008, NYSERDA incentives to four counties in the North Country totaled approximately $4.8 million, which includes funding for photovoltaic installations, energy efficiency, and residential investments—that number does not include large-scale investments (none of which were in located inside the Park anyway). About $2.1 million of that money was from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

A closer look at that ARRA numbers, however, reveals less than $100,000 has gone to municipalities in the Adirondack Park. “The Park has been slighted again,” Putman said. “I would like to see a redirection of priorities to areas with the highest needs.” Essex County has some of the oldest infrastructure and housing stock in the state, the highest demand for energy, and pays some of the highest energy rates, Putman said.

When pressed with the question, “What funds have gone to municipalities inside the park?” NYSERDA’s Jeffery Gordon pointed to a number of projects in municipalities outside the park, projects for a few non-profits inside the Blue Line. Gordon said NYSERDA provided $2,100 for the Town of Jay for “technical assistance,” and cited $16,000 Warren County received for various energy efficiency projects [how much of that money was spent in the Park could not be determined in time for this report]. An additional $77,000 went to the Town of Harrietstown Housing Authority for technical assistance and energy efficiency incentives for two multi-family housing facilities. By way of comparison, at the same time the Town of Queensbury, just outside the Park’s southern border, received $167,000 for various energy efficiency projects.

The balance of the nearly $5 million allocated by NYSERDA in the four counties went to a few local nonprofits and for-profit companies inside the Blue Line. For example, last year $75,000 in financial incentives was awarded to Adirondack Woodsman’s Pellet Company for business-development planning in Long Lake, and $350,000 was awarded to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake to install a wood pellet boiler and a solar-thermal hot water array system. $10,000 in incentives was provided for Elizabethtown Hospital, $361,500 to Saranac Central School and $246,400 to the North Country School to install high efficiency wood boilers.

Adirondack residents each pay a Systems Benefit Charge (SBC) on their electric bill, which is used to fund NYSERDA’s Energy $mart Program and other projects designed to improve the state’s transmission and distribution infrastructure, including energy efficiency, education and outreach, research and development, and low-income energy assistance. The fund amounts to about $1.87 billion from 1998 through 2011, according to the Public Service Commission (PSC). How much of that money residents of the Adirondack Park have paid and how much they’ve received back is an open question.

In March 2006, the PSC ordered the Systems Benefit Charge be extended through June 30, 2011 and increased the annual funding to $175 million [pdf]. As a result, an estimated $896 million (including interest earnings) will be collected during this five-year period ($427 million for peak load, energy efficiency, outreach and education; $182 million for research and development, including renewable energy; and $190 million for low-income energy assistance).


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Adirondack Day at the Wild Center, Tupper Lake

Ten years after the Adirondack Curriculum Project (ACP) began, hundreds of teachers and students have been touched by their work and better understand the unique landscape of their home, the Adirondacks. They will share their knowledge with each other during Adirondack Day on March 4th at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

Approximately 140 students and teachers from six schools will share their projects through storytelling, a puppet show, a game show, interactive displays and presentations, on Adirondack topics from biodiversity and trout to nocturnal animals and history. Schools attending include – Tupper Lake, Potsdam, Indian Lake, Newcomb, Lake Placid, and Ausable Valley.

Often times in the Adirondacks, because of time and distance, small schools don’t have the opportunity to interact. Adirondack Day provides the opportunity for these students to meet and ‘teach’ each other. Certainly by the end of the day, there will be over 100 young people more knowledgeable about the uniqueness of their home.

Sandy Bureau, science teacher at Indian Lake Central School and one of the day’s organizers says, “Research shows that having to ‘teach’ others is one of the best ways to learn. We hope to provide that opportunity and to help students feel the value of their voices and learning about this special place we live in.”

The ACP’s mission is to foster better public understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Adirondack region’s natural and cultural resources, by providing educational resources and training opportunities for teachers in the region. The ACP hosts workshops for teachers showing them how to develop an ‘Adirondack Challenge’ – a student-centered, project-based, lesson plan aligned with NYS Learning Standards.

Teachers leave the workshops with a project ready to use in their own classrooms. They later submit their completed projects to the ACP, where other teachers can access and utilize those resources. Adirondack Day is the first opportunity for students who participated in those projects to share their experiences.

For additional information on the Adirondack Curriculum Project, visit www.adkcurriculumproject.org.

Adirondack Day has been funded by The Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for year-round residents of the Adirondack Park.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Don Morris: Notes On Winter Paddling

Winter paddling in the Adirondacks? Sure! Sometimes. While not a preferred activity for everyone, it can be done. I’ve paddled in every month of the year and have managed to have fun (most of the time).

Flatwater paddling is generally limited to short sections of rivers below dams, where the released water produces fairly consistent current. Whitewater paddling is generally possible only after extended thaws. In my experience, this is pretty hit or miss from year to year depending on how thick the ice build-up is, how warm it actually gets, and how long the thaw lasts. The topography of the river counts too. Deep, narrow ravines and gorges get little sunshine. Twisty rivers and rivers with very large boulders or small islands often trap ice.

Obviously, you have to dress warmly. For flatwater, basic paddling clothes, layers of fleece, neoprene booties, and gloves (or poagies) are usually sufficient as long as you don’t flip. [Poagies are hand covers that go over your paddle shaft or grip and are attached via velcro—some are insulated.] Whitewater paddlers need very warm clothing. A drysuit is preferred (though a wet suit can work too) and you’ll definitely want a helmet liner and poagies.

I limit my winter paddling to rivers I know well and that are well within my skill level. I prefer shorter trips and ones that don’t require me to get out of my boat very often because it’s easier to stay warm. Before paddling in winter, you should check out your take-out spot and make sure you can get out of the river. This seems obvious, but you never know. If you can, also view the river at mid-points as it’s not unheard of to have an open river at the beginning and end of a trip, only to have it iced up at the mid-point.

Often, your only way to get into a river in winter is to get in your boat and slide down an ice shelf or snow bank and plop into the water. (You want a strong boat for this.) The problem is that when you’re ready to get out of the river, you can’t slide uphill. Once on the river proceed cautiously and be ready to exit the river. A clear river can quickly turn into a congested one. Sharp bends are often a problem—stay to the outside of the turn so you can get a better view of what’s around the corner. If you’re concerned about a bigger rapid or a possible obstruction, get out earlier than you normally might because you may not be able to get out further downstream. Prepare to deal with ice chunks coming down the river–some are small and some can be huge. They can nudge your boat or smash it—again, you want a plastic boat. Try not to flip. Even with a good roll, flipping in winter water gives you a major “ice-cream” headache that can be very disorienting. Start your car as soon as you get off the river so you can warm up and change into dry clothes as quickly as possible. Zippers, straps, etc. are likely to seize very quickly and spray skirts become stiff. A friend and I once had to drive about 15 minutes before we could take off any of our paddling gear.

You can actually have fun as long as you pick times/locations very carefully, paddle within your experience level, only paddle rivers that you know very well, and take extra precautions.

Photo: WinterCampers.com’s Mark, Chris, Sparky and Matt on a back-country “paddle”. Courtesy WinterCampers.com



Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.

Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.